The Rise of Biometric Payment Cards
Despite the increasing popularity of mobile wallets and payment-enabled devices such as rings and smartwatches, payment cards still remain the favourite payment method worldwide. Biometric technology is the latest frontier applied to payment cards.
This handy piece of plastic has gone through several stages of evolution since its conception in the fifties, adding additional features year on year such as the magnetic stripe, the EMV chip and more recently a tiny flat antenna that enables tap-and-go payments.
To simplify life for consumers and speed up the check-out experience, most of the leading credit card companies have already ditched the signature. The initial idea to have consumers expressing consent to confirm and agree on the amount he or she is being charged has become obsolete; signatures are indecipherable, retailers don’t verify them and it is very difficult to know whether the person who signed is the real owner of the card.
To simplify life of the consumers and speed up the check-out experience, most of the leading credit card companies have already ditched the signature.
Consumers are already enjoying a smooth, frictionless experience with low value tap-and-go transactions. In the UK it is a finite amount of £30, but this varies by country, and all other transactions require a PIN for authorization. Memorising one PIN is normally not an issue, however the reality is that most of us have multiple debit and credit cards on top of many other PINs and passwords needed to access online accounts.
Of course, if a wallet is stolen the person in possession of the card could use contactless payments to authorize multiple fraudulent transactions below the allowed threshold – until the card has been disabled. The same considerations apply to lost cards. Biometrics is the latest technology frontier applied to payment cards designed to solve these issues and more. Think of the same fingerprint sensor that we use nowadays to unlock our smartphones, but integrated within the plastic structure of a payment card. So how does this work?
Biometric cards are issued and delivered to the user as per any regular card. The user is then required to go through a one-time enrolment process where the thumb of their dominant hand is pressed several times onto the sensor, its images converted into digital files that are stored securely within the card. The card is then ready for use. Enrolment is currently carried out within branches of banks and, in the near future, will be enabled from home.
Biometric is the latest technology frontier applied to payment cards. Think of the same fingerprint sensor that we use nowadays to unlock our smartphones, but integrated within the plastic structure of a payment card.
When the consumer needs to make a payment in store, he or she simply places the tip of their finger on the fingerprint sensor and at the same time will “wave” the card (or dip it into the POS terminal) at the checkout counter. The card checks internally if the finger on the sensor matches with the finger images previously stored into its memory; if there is a match the transaction is authorized and payment is carried out successfully. This process takes place in about one second and there is no need to input a PIN number!
This offers convenience and peace of mind for the consumer, particularly when a card has been lost or stolen. It is also simplifies the payment process for the elderly, or more generally for those that have difficulty remembering PINs, as well as enabling proof-of-life avoiding leakage of government welfare or financial inclusion funds to deceased or to unintended people.
The impact of this technology from an infrastructure point of view is minimum. No change of any sort is required to the existing hardware or software of the POS Terminal, store owners only need to ensure that the payment terminal is front-facing the customer for ease of access.
In terms of security and privacy, the biometric payment cards are fully compliant with the most stringent national and international laws, such as PSD2 and GDPR, as the users biometric data is stored in the card only. Addressing and being compliant with these laws in payment transactions can be overcome by such a solution.
Founder and editor-in-chief – Embedded Security News
Antonio D’Albore is a smart card advisor with 20 years of experience in the industry. He is also founder and editor-in-chief of Embedded Security News, an online resource fully dedicated to smart cards and their applications. Antonio is author of “The Rise of Biometric Card”, a periodically updated research on the subjects of biometric smart cards.
Antonio’s work is public and can be downloaded at www.embeddedsecuritynews.com.
Results-driven sales strategist, visionary business development on hi-end technology industry.
15+ years experience in smart card design, manufacturing and personalization, Electronic Passports and Security related solutions in Europe, Asia Pacific & Middle East Markets.
Specialties: Business Line P&L, CxO & VP Level negotiation, Team Building & Management, Sales, JV – Partnership management, legal and international law affairs, Web 2.0, Cloud Computing.
Writes on Smart Cards and related technologies on Embedded Security News.